On February 13, Sam Cooper saw a social media post regarding the Ángeles Verdes (Green Angels) -- that reminded him of his "worst and best" trip to Mexico.
"Ángeles Verdes saved me too," he said.
Cooper, 41, is a San Diego native that moved to Los Angeles; he drives down to southern Baja California three times a year. Two years ago, on a trip down to San Juanico, his truck's belt broke at Santo Tomas (south of Ensenada) and his truck stopped running.
"The Ángeles Verdes rep suggested we head back north to the closest auto parts store," he said. "We found the belt and drove back to the truck. We chatted about his family and mine, and we stopped twice [to help other stranded drivers]. Once we got back to my truck, a goat-farmer/mechanic was waiting for us and he installed the belt. The rep suggested a fair price for me to pay the farmer, but I gave him more."
Ángeles Verdes, which is part of Mexico's Ministry of Tourism, was created in 1960 to assist tourists traveling through Mexico with advice, telephone-and-mechanical assistance and directions. The organization provides assistance to the general population in the case of natural disasters.
"I was blown away that Mexico has a service like this," Cooper said. "What a great idea – especially with the long empty stretches of highway."
After Cooper's truck was up and running, he had over 550 miles to go.
Ángeles Verdes covers 262 highways and roadways throughout Mexico, including 21 from Tijuana to Mulegé.
On Feb. 6, Liz Letcher from British Columbia, Canada, pulled over between Los Barriles and La Paz which is over 1,000 miles south of San Diego.
"We stopped to fix our muffler," she said, "then about two minutes later, Pedro pulled up in a well marked Ángeles Verdes pickup. He found the bolt we needed in his box of parts and waited to make sure everything was OK."
During the last two winters, Letcher has traveled from Canada to San Diego, then to southern Baja California.
"We feel safer traveling in Baja than we do in the U.S.," she said. "This is a free service sponsored by Secretaria de Turismo and all you have to do if you need help is call 078."
John from Imperial Beach said: "In case people are unaware, once you pay the toll anywhere on the escenica toll roads, and if you break down, you get a free tow off the nearest exit. There is a phone number on your receipt and there are phones along the road. You can usually pay an extra fee to the driver to take you to a mechanic, and these drivers know the best mechanics for specific problems."
Other travelers have reported that they couldn't get through when dialing 078 and cell reception is limited in areas south of Ensenada; others said that there are call boxes on the toll roads.
Ángeles Verdes has a team of "770 public servants" spread between "417 units" and they travel up to 22 million kilometers (13.7 million miles) per year, states the government website.